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Alabama gun dealer sees big spike in handgun sales following protests over George Floyd’s death

FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2016, file photo, handguns are displayed at the Smith & Wesson booth at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas. The gun industry is gathering for its annual conference, in January 2020, amid a host of uncertainty: slumping gun sales, a public increasingly agitating for restrictions on access to firearms and a presidential campaign that threatens gun rights like perhaps no other time in modern American history. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2016, file photo, handguns are displayed at the Smith & Wesson booth at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas. The gun industry is gathering for its annual conference, in January 2020, amid a host of uncertainty: slumping gun sales, a public increasingly agitating for restrictions on access to firearms and a presidential campaign that threatens gun rights like perhaps no other time in modern American history. (AP Photo/John Locher, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. – Protests and demonstrations over George Floyd’s death have had an unintended consequence. After many turned violent, gun sales, particularly for handguns are again on the rise. Gun store owners in Baldwin County say they’ve not seen demand for handguns this high in more than a decade.

Shelves at local gun stores are emptying as handgun sales skyrocket. What’s the reason customers are buying them up? Fear is the word that continues to come up. Madison Goss spent Wednesday morning, June 3, 2020 looking for a handgun for his wife. He hopes violence won’t find its way here.

“People need to open their hearts up. Let God in,” Goss said. “Just because one cop was bad, doesn’t make everybody else bad. Resolve this stuff. Put God in your heart.”

Rick Lowell owns pawn shops in Loxley and Foley. Guns are a big part of his business but in just the last few days, he’s nearly sold out. Lowell said his customers have voiced concern over mounting tension between police and demonstrators and his sales have spiked starting Monday. Most guns priced less than $400 have been bought, leaving only small caliber and expensive options.

“I went to one of the major distributors yesterday and went through everything that they had in stock. I found one gun under three hundred dollars and it was a twenty-two, as far as semi-automatic handguns,” Lowell said.

That, and a backlog with the federal firearms background check database indicates gun sales are on the rise across the country. This isn’t the first time a specific event has triggered an increase in firearms sales and one thing that worries dealers like Lowell is who’s buying them.

“You’ve got a lot of people buying guns that are not real familiar with guns and a gun is a dangerous tool. It is a tool. It’s like a hammer,” Lowell explained. “If you don’t know how to use a hammer, you’re going to hit your thumb and who do you blame, the hammer or yourself, you know?”

According to FBI statistics, the month of May ended with 180,000-more requests for background checks on gun purchases than in April and 800,000-more than May of 2019. In Alabama, the number of requests during May was nearly double that of a year ago. June numbers aren’t yet available.